Dr Melanie Fuller has recently joined QSMC to offer dance physiotherapy services to the Brisbane and Queensland dance community. Melanie has a PhD in injury prevention in dance and is an Australian Physiotherapy Association Titled Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist, as well as a Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, with master’s level qualifications in these areas. She has 14+ years of clinical experience working with dancers from recreational to professional levels and from various genres.
Melanie worked in a private physiotherapy practice in Brisbane for 11+ years, working with the young dancers of Brisbane and touring dance companies and musicals, more notably the Paris Opera Ballet, and Matilda – The Musical. She is a casual touring physiotherapist with The Australian Ballet, and works with touring companies visiting Brisbane. Melanie was a consultant physiotherapist to QUT Dance for 6 years, and in more recent years, has held an academic position at James Cook University, teaching the next generation of physiotherapy students in musculoskeletal physiotherapy. Melanie became President of the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare in March 2021, which is the peak body in Australia for the promotion of holistic healthcare for performing artists that have unique healthcare needs. Melanie is excited to be working with the top physiotherapists, allied health, and medical practitioners at QSMC.
Over the years Melanie has contributed to the education of fellow physiotherapists, offering an online lecture through Clinical Edge on Pre Pointe Assessments and Movement Analysis in Dance. Melanie has offered Pre Pointe Assessments since 2007. She is so pleased to see how popular these assessments have become, and that so many young dancers, their parents/carers, and dance teachers value a Pre Pointe Assessment. Melanie views this assessment as an opportunity for young dancers to gain important information about their body, and how best to look after themselves at this transition point in their training. At this time, not only do young dancers progress their dance skills by starting pointe work, but potentially also increase their hours of training, whilst happening at a time when their body is growing and developing.
In addition to assessing range of motion, strength and technical ability, Melanie will assess a dancer’s growth changes, and ensure they’re aware of the importance of calcium intake to develop healthy bones and refer to Sports Dieticians if there is a concern. Melanie encourages young dancers to continue to train other areas of fitness, for example by participating in other sports to develop additional skills and fitness. Mel believes it’s important for young dancers to have a diversity of physical skills. It will help them to enjoy a lifetime of participation in dance, whether it be as a professional career or to enjoy recreationally into adulthood.
Melanie loves meeting young dancers for the first time for their pre-pointe assessment. This appointment can often be a young dancer’s first visit to a physiotherapist. Dancers at this stage of their training benefit from commencing an exercise program to reduce their risk of injury and enhance their dance performance.
Melanie finds that supplemental training for dancers can be misguided and often focus on developing the skills that dance classes already provide. Dancers who are pursuing training more seriously should look to work on cardiovascular fitness and strength.
Melanie’s PhD research investigated reducing injuries in dance. Her study and passion for this topic allow her to provide young dancers with informed and individualised injury reduction exercise programs. Melanie also offers Ongoing Dancer Monitoring services. Young athletes with finer self-monitoring skills have been shown to sustain fewer injuries (van der Sluiss, 2019).
Our Ongoing Dancer Monitoring service will involve physical and strength tests at various intervals throughout the year to track progression; because ‘if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.’ This monitoring process also serves as an opportunity for dancers to “check-in” with Melanie to discuss the periodisation of training. Her research has shown dancer susceptibility to injury at certain times across a dancers training development (Fuller et al., 2019; Fuller et al., 2020a), as well as within a year of training (Fuller et al., 2020b).
Melanie is also super excited that QSMC has a testing centre housing VALD Performance technology. This can take Dancer Monitoring to the next level and provide unparalleled data to ensure your training is optimised for individual progress.
Melanie loves working with dancers on more than just injuries and at various stages of training. Some dancers often seek an Injury Risk Profile Assessment, previously known as screenings. With Melanie’s recent studies she is across the best practice for this process. In some cases, these are compulsory to provide as part of auditioning for tertiary dance schools. However, Melanie also recommends these at specific transitions in a dancer’s training; such as:
- Increasing in hours of training
- Transitioning from casual/part-time to full-time training
- On an annual basis to discuss your upcoming goals for the year ahead
Changes in training often occur at the start of the training year which occurs after the summer holidays in Australia. Seeking an Injury Risk Assessment and commencing an injury reduction program is most common in December and January.
Injury Risk Assessments have similar goals to that of a Pre Pointe Assessment. However, they are more individualised to where a young dancers development currently lies. This is a great option for boys so that they don’t miss out on this invaluable process and information.
Well, I think you’ve guessed that Melanie is all about proactive interventions to reduce the risk of injury since prevention is better than cure. Melanie also works with dancers for Injury Consultations. Melanie’s master’s level qualifications, research in this area, and years of experience make her sort after to optimally rehabilitate dance injuries. Her research has also investigated subsequent injuries, which are injuries after an individual’s first injury (Fuller et al., 2020a). It is known that the biggest risk factor for future injury is previous injury.
Melanie will assess all contributing factors and investigate the “why” and “how” an injury occurred. She describes this as the best aspect of her job and enjoys the detective work behind understanding the cause for injury.
In her research, Melanie found that there can be a potential snowball effect of sustaining subsequent injuries at shorter time intervals after an initial injury (Fuller et al., 2020a). Because of this, she stresses the importance of optimal rehabilitation to injury, respecting the time frames of recovery and an individual’s goals.
Melanie encompasses all of this when working with young dancers, their teachers and parents. She is passionate about best supporting a dancer’s goals, reducing their injury risk, optimally rehabilitating injuries, enhancing performance and supporting a happy lifetime in dance.
Melanie welcomes any questions about how dancers can best prepare for the demands of dance – firstname.lastname@example.org and regularly posts informative content for young dancers on her social media accounts. See @drmfullerphysio Instagram, @mfullerphysio Facebook, @mfullerphysio Twitter, and LinkedIn
Fuller, M., Moyle, G., Hunt, A., & Minett, G. (2019). Ballet and contemporary dance injuries when transitioning to full-time training or professional level dance: a systematic review. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 23(3), 112-125.
Fuller, M., Moyle, G. M., & Minett, G. M. (2020a). Injuries across a pre-professional ballet and contemporary dance tertiary training program: A retrospective cohort study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 23(12), 1166-1171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2020.06.012
Fuller, M., Moyle, G. M., Hunt, A. P., & Minett, G. M. (2020b). Injuries during transition periods across the year in pre-professional and professional ballet and contemporary dancers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physical Therapy in Sport 44, 14-23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2020.03.010
van der Sluis A, Brink MS, Pluim BM, et al. Self-regulatory skills: Are they helpful in the prevention of overuse injuries in talented tennis players? Scand J Med Sci Sports 2019;29(7):1050-58. doi: 10.1111/sms.13420